Your Credit Union Has Your Back
Get the New Year off to a good start by following these tips from the National Association of Federal Credit Unions (NAFCU):
1. Create and stick to a budget – Tracking your expenses is crucial to living within your financial means. If you’d like to create a budget but aren’t sure where to start, credit unions frequently offer free financial literacy classes that can provide assistance.
2. Make savings a priority – Many credit unions offer the opportunity to open a savings account for as little as $5. Consider splitting your direct deposit between checking and savings accounts. Now’s a great time to start a vacation or holiday account to save up for special occasions, or an emergency fund. Also, take advantage of 401K plans through work as well as IRAs and CDs that credit unions offer.
3. Avoid unnecessary fees – Most credit unions still offer no-fee checking and participate in a shared branching network that gives members access to credit union locations in all 50 states. Credit unions also offer access to tens of thousands of free ATMs nationwide, including at key 7-Eleven locations.
4. Pick the right credit card for you – Several credit cards have rewards programs that allow you to redeem points for anything from travel to gift cards. Make sure to choose cards with low interest rates. Recent figures show that average rates for credit union classic credit cards are 11.58, as compared with 12.93 at banks. Compare bank rates and credit union rates at http://www.culookup.com/CompareCURates.
5. Review your financial statements/credit report frequently – With recent data security breaches, reviewing your credit report is more important than ever. You can request a free copy of your credit report once a year at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action.
6. Weigh financial decisions carefully – Cautiously decide what you can manage to pay for. Visit http://culookup.com, where 30 financial calculators are available to help you decide everything from how much car you can afford to whether you should consolidate your debts.
To which we’ll add the following:
Cut some cards – you probably have more open accounts than you really need. Not only does this encourage you to spend more money, it can actually do harm to your credit rating. Do a New Year’s audit of all your open accounts, and only keep the ones with the best fees, interest and other policies.
Don’t be a “how much a month” sucker: Always evaluate ALL the terms of any credit offer before you sign any contract. For instance, credit providers often use low monthly payment numbers to hook you in, while downplaying how long it will take to pay off the loan.
Be honest with yourself – This should be your Number 1 financial New Year’s resolution. Don’t be overly optimistic about your ability to pay off “interest free for 6 months!” and other types of promotional offers. (Go back to NAFCU’s #1 advice on budgets, and stick to yours).
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